Positively Bob Dylan

Fine Bob Dylan stuff. Since 1997.

Series of dreams: 20 years of Bootleg Series

Twenty years ago, in 1991 Columbia for the first time released an extensive compilation box set including solely previously unreleased recordings of Bob Dylan. The collection of 58 demos, rare studio session outtakes, live soundboard recordings, and alternate versions or takes spans everything from Dylan's first demos (the "Minnesota Hotel Tape", 1961) to his then latest single "Series of Dreams", an "Oh Mercy" outtake from 1989, remixed exclusively for the release of the box set in 1991. Remember the great music video to the song? Watch it again below, and post your opinion.

The release of "The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991)" was probably not meant to become an ongoing series of official releases of rarities. Bob Dylan's repertoire and performances range among the most bootlegged in music history, the legendary "Great White Wonder" has actually initiated rock music bootlegging. So Columbia took the risk of releasing recordings that serious collectors probably already owned, and on the other hand of compiling material that could very well not be sellable in large quantities to the average Dylan audience. But they succeeded: Both the release itself and the sales numbers were more than satisfactory: The box set entered the Billboard charts, and it has been certified with a gold record.

After its success, the "Bootleg Series" actually continued to grow into a real series of dreams for fans and collectors. Finally the record company started to care about the alternate musical legacy that until then had remained hidden deep in the archives.
For each of the new releases the songs and live performances have always been carefully picked from the wide variety of available material, there have been digitally restored and remastered from the original tapes. Additionally new liner notes have been written, and previously unreleased photographies have been added to complete one must-have release after the other.

Here are the volumes of the first and past twenty years:

1991 Vols. 1-3: Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991 (3 CDs)
1998 Vol. 4: Live 1966 (The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert) (2 CDs)
2002 Vol. 5: Live 1975 (The Rolling Thunder Revue) (2 CDs)
2004 Vol. 6: Live 1964 (Concert at Philharmonic Hall) (2 CDs)
2005 Vol. 7: No Direction Home - The Soundtrack (2 CDs)
2008 Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006 (2 CDs)
2010 Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos 1962-1964 (2 CDs)

So, what do you expect to become Vol. 10? Suggestions from my side: The Genuine Basement Tapes, Blonde On Blonde sessions (a possible option according to Rolling Stone), maybe even Live at the Supper Club 1993, or Live at Woodstock '94?

Update from November 2014: Volume 10 has been released: "The Basement Tapes Complete" (6 CDs)


User comments

Brian September 19, 2011
Not a bad idea, although Columbia probably wants to avoid that to keep the gravy train running decades after Dylan's passed. In this day and age, though, it wouldn't be hard to just sell an iPod with 1,000 of them. I heard they released like a 50-disc set of an entire Grateful Dead tour and it sold out in a few days. Plus Pearl Jam made all of their shows available on disc...I think that went over somewhat well. Prevents actual bootlegging: I only ever listen to bootlegs when there isn't a commercially-available version. One other I remember hearing about is a 4-hour + solo show in the 90's in a small venue, where Dylan was taking requests and even played stuff like Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark."

Brian September 19, 2011
From TOOM: Shake Sugaree The 35-minute version of Highlands (maybe as a bonus disc since this would appeal to fewer people)

Brian September 19, 2011
Haha, yeah. Bootleg Series Volume 10: "The Home Studio Tapes." Great idea. Maybe include that first Wilbury take of "Handle With Care," which I think was demoed there.

Brian September 19, 2011
Wow, what agreat suggestion! There is actually a boot I've heard that is called "One-Timers." But it is cobbled together without regard to quality and I think only documents pre-2000s performances--which are packed with such pieces ("Yea Heavy and a Bottle of Bread" anyone?) I wouldn't be opposed to Street Legal stuff. The instrumentation of that album (which I like) leads me to believe there has to be many takes, including some stripped down versions.

Kevin September 17, 2011
Stop with this one volume every 2-3 years. Put ten volumes out at once. Hit all the wish list items, and also do some truly rare material that the fans have never heard. Do the same next year. They will sell. Very well.

Martin September 17, 2011
What about the piano version of She´s Your Lover Now, the unedited Handy Dandy, outtakes from Infidels that are not bootlegged yet. Apparently there are about 43 different versions of Foot Of Pride. Alternate versions of songs from Love And Theft. The session with NRBQ and other Under The Red Sky outtakes. The Oh Mercy songs Dylan did with Ron Wood. More from Desire, like the alternate Abandoned Love, or the unheard Town. And there is plenty more from Time Out Of Mind, like the song Not Turn Around. I wonder if there are demos in Dylan´s private archive of Love Is Just A Four Letter Word and Wanted Man. I could go on forever you know. And then I didn´t even mention all the great concerts Dylan has given, like the often mentioned Gospel Shows. Indeed they are really special. The Temples In Flames Tour is in my mind underrated. Sony Could release a hundred volumes of Bootleg Series and there is still much left to be desired.

andre fritze tamworth aus. September 17, 2011
What about a compilation of songs exclusive to TV & film soundtracks and performances–tracks from “Feeling Minnesota”, “Hearts of Fire”, “Natural Born Killers”, “The Sopranos”, “The 60′s”, “Band of the Hand”, “Saturday Night Live”, “Late Night”, the Grammy Awards, “Flashback,” “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”, etc. There’s some great non-album tracks from “Masked & Anonymous” as well. this is really the stuff that should be released in june 2012 & the supper club material @ the end of september then the gospel showas @ christmas 2012 hope it is not to much of a good idea.

Edvard September 16, 2011
If there's a hidden treasure among all the hidden treasures in Dylan's history, in my book it's the Nov/Dec 1980 Musical Retrospective Tour live shows. Absolutely fantastic performances and wonderful setlists. 'Rise Again', 'Abraham, Martin & John', 'Mary From The Wild Moor', 'City Of Gold', 'Let's Keep It Between Us', 'Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody' etc- all wonderful and only to be heard on shows from this tour. Let me suggest one of the mid-November shows in combination with a Seattle show?

Richard September 16, 2011
Bab has a number of original songs in his vault that few if any people have heard. After all he did (does) have a recording studio in his house. They would make a great bootleg release.

ohmercy September 16, 2011
This is my favorite officially released Bob video. The shots and montage moments are amazing. I've been planning out some informal, mixed media/collage Bob centered pieces and this video is very inspirational. You can stop it almost anywhere and have a visual feast. I better go- I'm dominating with my posts- and at some point today I need to accomplish something!

ohmercy September 16, 2011
"Dylan’s 80s weren’t that bad at all!" Agreed! I never know what people are talking about when they say how terrible the decade was...DECADE? huh? And that includes Dylan himself! Sheesh. Of course I also never know what people are talking about when they say his concerts are terrible- or he was phoning it in. When I listen to live shows, without seeing him I'm always captivated by the nuance, inflections and often passion he is putting out. i'm beginning to think people are misunderstanding due to his physicality and facial expressions. But if you look back Dylan's never smiled much when singing, though he used to be slightly more interactive with the audience. We actually threw each other huge kisses during a show in the 80's. (Another pet peeve of mine is when concert reviewers say something like Dylan always being grumpy and taciturn in concert throughout his career) I've searched for a photo or video of that moment over and over to no avail. So yeah- Down in the Groove, Under the Red Sky- (yes, I like it) World Gone Wrong, Saved/Shot of Love- bring them on.

ohmercy September 16, 2011
The list goes on and on. How about a collection of things he has played only once or twice in concert? Every so often I'll be listening to a boot and be stopped in my tracks by a performance. After hearing it a number of times-(I tend to listen to the same disc over a period of days -or weeks!) I'll go to Bobdylan.com or Bob's Boots and find that he has only played it less than 5 times... The one that comes to mind right now is Red Wing. Holy Moly what a great song and performance. Actually I wish he would sing it again. It would be coming from a completely different perspective sung by a man in his 70's. No- you aren't the only one who would like music from that period- though I may be the only one who would like to see some Street-Legal stuff. I love that album and care not a whit what anyone else says... In fact I think they are missing out on some great, mystical/archetypal "wisdom" music and some over the top passionate delivery by Bob. IMHO of course.

ohmercy September 16, 2011
[external link] There is a partial clip of "What can I do for you" at the start of the video at the link above. (at Dylan Video) The harmonica playing is amazing.

ohmercy September 16, 2011
Yes- I'd love to have some of the gospel material on official release. I have a live "I Believe in You" that is so passionate- incredible. And there was a video on youtube at one point of "What Can I Do For You" that would knock your socks off, curl your hair and send shivers up and down your whole body... and maybe bring tears to your eyes I just looked for it and its gone... unsurprisingly. Maybe Dylanvideo has it.

ohmercy September 16, 2011
"I’m still amazed that this guy’s scraps could make 5-star review albums." AMEN! A few minutes ago, while waiting for the video to load I went to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee and said aloud- "Effing Bob Dylan, he just boggles the brain" There was no one to hear except the cat. She just gave me that feline stare. I'm sure she was sagely agreeing with me. God, I love that guy- continues to blow the mind.

rich September 16, 2011
supper club. beautiful stuff dying for a clean release and already recorded for same.

Mike Hobo September 16, 2011
A few more... - the full 4 minutes take of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" - "Nuggets of Rain" duet with Bette Midler - the "Real Live" outtakes, Dylan's 80s weren't that bad at all! - outtakes from the "Saved/Shot of love" & "Down in the Groove" sessions - outtakes from "Infidels" sessions with Mark Knopfler & "Empire Burlesque" - the complete songs from "Masked & Anonymous" Boy, this list can go on and on...

Mike September 16, 2011
The mother load for me would be the complete basement tapes, without Robbie's extra licks. But that's unlikely due to the release of that other album. My second choice would be a gospel show. Many of us turned away from Dylan during the gospel period, myself included. I'd like to hear an all gospel show, with lots of preaching.

Mike Hobo September 16, 2011
There are many good soundboard Bootlegs out there of the 1987 tour with the Grateful Dead. I think it's time to learn from the mistakes of "Dylan & The Dead" and release a more complete 2 CD compilation of the shows.

Jeff September 16, 2011
While I'd love to see the gospel (live and unreleased etc) years released I'm not sure it's likely to happen due to the lesser interest the uninitiated have to this time period overall. I hope I'm wrong. I think it's time for another 3 CD set like the original. There's so many unreleased songs still, including the original take of Hurricane, the alternate versions and live renditions of Jokerman and other Infidels gems, tons of live acoustic stuff from the early years of the Neverending Tour and I'm sure more good stuff exists from Good As I Been to You and World Gone Wrong. Of course the Basement Tapes as well...The song Sign on the Cross from those sessions should be released, dammit! ;-) I'm still amazed that this guy's scraps could make 5-star review albums.

Brian September 16, 2011
I forgot to mention that if they do release the Gospel shows, I hope they go for the all-religious set lists. We really don't need an umpteenth version of "Like A Rolling Stone."

Brian September 16, 2011
Actually, if you read the liner notes from the first release, they did intend for it to stretch indefinitely over many volumes. It specifically mentions the 1966 concert as slated for future release. Although I agree the project has to have exceeded expectations. I thought they might release a "Best of the Bootleg Series" since it is the 20th anniversary. Pretty remarkable if you think about--Dylan's outtake career has outlived most other act's best efforts. I will kill somebody at Columbia if they release anymore 60's recordings, at least for now. There's too much other good stuff! The Whitmark Demos were pointless and would have served better peppered throughout a release covering a larger time period, much like Volumes 1-3. I agree the Gospel concerts would be a great choice. What about the Neverending Tour? Would love to hear some early 2000s Sexton-Campbell licks. Outtakes from the 90's folk albums would be cool, although I'm not sure how many there are. I know there's a TON of stuff in the 80s--mostly covers--at least a few must be worth hearing. I'm probably the only one that wouldn't mind hearing some Nashville Skyline/Self Portrait/New Morning country crooning tracks, especially the Johnny Cash duets. What about a compilation of songs exclusive to TV & film soundtracks and performances--tracks from "Feeling Minnesota", "Hearts of Fire", "Natural Born Killers", "The Sopranos", "The 60's", "Band of the Hand", "Saturday Night Live", "Late Night", the Grammy Awards, "Flashback," "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood", etc. There's some great non-album tracks from "Masked & Anonymous" as well. Or his work on tribute albums or shows to Hank Williams, Warren Zevon, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Rodgers, etc.? I could go on of course.

Steve September 16, 2011
For me it would be the 1969 Isle of Wight show with the Band, his only appearnce in an 8 year lay off and a real contrast between '66' and '74'. It seems to be rubbished be most but does contain some really lovley performances including the one off 'Wild mountain tyme"

Joe September 16, 2011
Vol 10 Bob Dylan Live 1979 at Santa Monica Ca. Bob playing nothing but his gospel songs, with a little preaching to boot. I have a bootlegged cd of one those shows and it rocks. But, Blonde on Blonde is one of my fav's (his first recording in Nashville) and that would also be a Great listen.

Paul September 16, 2011
Or, how about some of his gospel shows? Those concerts were phenomenal.

Paul September 16, 2011
Yea, I'd love to see the 'original' Basement Tapes being released.

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